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XyWrite is a word processor for DOS and Windows modeled on the ATEX mainframe program[1]. Popular with writers and editors for its speed and degree of customization, XyWrite was in its heyday the house word processor in many editorial offices, including the New York Times from 1989 to 1993. XyWrite was written by David Erickson and marketed by XyQuest from 1982 through 1992, after which it was acquired by The Technology Group. The final version for DOS was 4.18 (1993); for Windows, 4.13.



  • Its file format consists of plain text (IBM437, or so-called "extended ASCII") with markup (within guillemets: « »). This capability is useful for typesetters who need to convert to various formats, e.g., LaTeX. A plug-in for ANSI characters is available.
  • XyWrite is written in assembly language, allowing it to run faster than word processors written in a higher level language.
  • It has a flexible macro-programming language (XPL) that offers many advantages for quick search and replace, copy-editing and reformatting of raw text. Users continue to write and share macros extending XyWrite features (printing to USB devices, for example).
  • Plain-text, editable configuration files allow easy customization of the keyboard—for remapping keystrokes and for execution of complex commands with individual keystrokes—as well as customization of what is loaded on launching the program.
  • Commands can be typed in directly on a command line, without the use of a mouse. Commands are usually in simple English, such as "Save," "Print," and "Search," or their shorter versions, such as "Sa" for "Save" (commands are case-insensitive).
  • Up to nine files can be opened for editing at one time in separate "windows" that allow quick copy-and-paste among several files. Two files may be opened on the same screen for easy comparison of changes; a XyWrite command will do the comparison automatically, putting the cursor on the location at which the two files first differ (from which the user can move to the next difference).
  • Version 4 has full WYSIWYG graphical editing capabilities including on-screen display of bitmaps.

History and current usage

XyQuest was founded in June 1982 by former ATEX employees Dave Erickson and John Hild. Its most successful product was XyWrite III Plus, which attracted a devoted following among professional writers.

The turning point for XyWrite came in the form of a disastrous near-partnership with IBM, which was seeking a modern replacement for its venerable DisplayWrite word processor. Working under an agreement signed in June 1990, XyQuest devoted nearly all of its development resources to revising Erickson's XyWrite IV to IBM's specifications, including IBM Common User Access-style menus, mouse support and a graphical user interface. Envisioned as a marriage between XyQuest technology and IBM marketing, the product was to be called Signature.

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